CarDomain Network: CarDomain Autoholics
An Interesting Daily Driver
Posted On: 11/19/2010 7:26AM

I recently got sick of the car payment routine, sold my '07 Focus, and found myself in need of a replacement daily driver.  I wanted something cheap but reliable (and of course with a little flair).  While borrowing my roommate's '97 Escort wagon, my search began and then just recently it ended: I found a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu with a 305.  4-door, 70's colored, (with fantastic plaid bench seats). Nothing striking, just simple and easy to work on. But there was a catch...

Like any cheap old car, the Malibu came with its share of ghosts: it needed an oil change before the 150-mile trip home, was missing a sway-bar end link, and had its exhaust sawed off ahead of the cats and replaced with cheap straight pipes and craptastic mufflers, which help turn the passenger compartment into a gas chamber. Dave and I also threw on new plugs, wires, fuel filter, cap and rotor.

Where we hit a glitch was when we went to replace the air filter. None of the possible engine codes checked out at the parts counter, so we got the nearest approximation of a filter for a 305 and went on our way. But when it wouldn't fit, after a little looking around we found the sticker near the fan shroud: "267 cu in 4.4 litre"... huh? No one we asked had ever heard of such a thing, but it turns out it was an ultra-rare motor that GM made for 3 years only as a high-efficiency V8, and unfortunately discontinued in 1981 because it didn't meet the emissions standards of the time. I say unfortunately because the mileage is actually pretty impressive for a V8: up to 25 mpg according to my Google research.

While the Malibu is solid, here's more of work to do before the car is where we want it to be (such as that goofy circular mirror pictured above which isn't even the correct shape, let alone mounted in the right place. Oh and it's not adjustable: completely useless!). But so far it's running like an entirely different car even after a few basic maintenance items. I've seen Dave do some amazing things with neglected vehicles, and this one's already turning around. Even the cheap exhaust tips he swapped on (temporarily until we cag get the entire exhaust done properly) has brought the engine note down to a dull roar and the gentle potpourri of exhaust fumes is now down to a minimum.

Overall, I predict that the Malibu going to be an interesting daily driver. How about you? Ever gotten something cheap and a little different to run as your daily?



Comments (7)
Avatar By: 66Mope
11/19/2010 9:48 AM

That's an awesome daily. My daily is an '88 Volvo 240. Not terribly "different" by left coast standards, but...

Avatar By: DaveyBoyo
11/19/2010 10:22 AM

Love unique dailies. If $2200 is considered cheap, then my '88 Jag XJ6 has gotta be up there for winter beaters. It's got the typical electrical gremlins (constantly showing ABS failure, rear locks sometimes unlock, sometimes not, KMH wont display digitally) and it doesn't like to be run on regular instead of premium octane.. plus it's got a weird electrical drain in the car somewhere that kills the battery every now and then .. but it's comfortable as hell, reasonably good on gas, the trunk is huge and it's a nice looking car.. good luck with the malibu!

Avatar By: retroman
11/19/2010 1:23 PM

Actually, the most I ever paid for a car was $3900. That was for my '00 Buick Century. I got tired of it though (well, except for the front bench seat ;) ), so I gave it to my parents to use. I replaced it with an '87 Pontiac Fiero GT I picked up for $900. I've put way more that that into fixing the car, and I'm not even close to done yet, but it is a fun little car with plenty of flair. I have to look up at Miata owners when I pull up next to them at stoplights, and I haven't even put on lowering springs yet. I love that feeling.

Avatar By: usnrocker
11/19/2010 7:27 PM

thats awesome man... my daily right now is an 81 c10 runnin a 305...

Avatar By: 79Futura
11/19/2010 7:29 PM

My first car was a '79 Ford Fairmont Futura. I started driving in 2006 so it was the only one in my highschools parking lot. It had the 200 cubic inch inline 6 banger. Solid car. got about 18 mpg with my lead foot and i couldnt blow it up. Believe me i tried. And that car was a tank in the winter. Easy to work on and cheap to fix. I still have the car but after i topped it out at 83 mph i decided to ditch the 6 banger. The car now runs in the low 13 second quarter miles :) and thats still not fast enough so more work ahead!

Avatar By: SuzyBruisy
11/19/2010 8:03 PM

Lovin' the Malibu, Steph; great score! I bought my $500 eBay-special 1981 AMC Eagle to use as a daily and a road-trip car while my Escort GT was undergoing restoration. The idea was I'd get rid of it when that project was done. Well, that was 6 years and 50,000 miles ago, and I'm rolling it out for my winter car yet again this year!

Avatar By: GTwildfire
11/19/2010 8:39 PM

Love the car. What I buy usually ends up a little different if it isn't already, and everything is done on a creative but strict budget. I have a taste for concealed-source mood lighting I haven't outgrown and if that's installed it usually means the ride has reached or neared completion, lol. The essentials always are taken care of first, which I guess means I've grown up. The 4.4 litre engine is a very strange twist. I bet it'll sound and smell great with the right exhaust.


Please wait while we load the comment form...